calling a justice "a useful idiot", "anti-Catholic 'bigotry'" etc. Civility as a value to be defended.

Curtis, Michael K. curtismk at wfu.edu
Thu May 7 12:18:26 PDT 2009


This is the problem of coming in late & not reading earlier posts. As to
Earl, I as was not addressing the merits of his post or what preceded
them or it but rather what I have seen in some academic scholarship.  It
is natural Earl thought otherwise.  Nor have I read the huge volume of
"useful idiot" posts.  Finally when the sickening title reappeared still
again, I wrote what I thought about using it as a description of Justice
Kennedy.  If I repeated what has often been said before as to this
characterization, so much the better.  Condemnation of this sort of
breach of basic civility can't be made too often.  When the phrase
reappeared, I finally said what I thought about it. I had just been
deleting these posts.  I did not bother and will not bother to look at
what provoked the reference to anti-Catholic because, frankly, I was
discussing a disturbing academic tendency in scholarship, not a post
here.  When I phrased my post in that way I was not being disingenuous.
I do not know who used the "useful idiot" phrase as a supposedly
accurate description in the first place.  Whoever decided to
characterize Justice Kennedy in that way made a serious mistake of
substance as well as civility and decency.  Not everything one has a
right to say is right to say.  We all make mistakes--and one may be
discussing the grossly oversimplified use of "anti=Catholic bigotry"
following a post using the phrase--without explaining that though the
phrased triggered a long held concern, I was not talking about any post
here or seeking to discuss the merits, without reading it, of any
controversy Earl or anyone else was involved in.   

Michael Curtis 

-----Original Message-----
From: Earl Maltz [mailto:emaltz at camden.rutgers.edu] 
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 11:46 AM
To: Curtis, Michael K.; Robert Sheridan; CONLAWPROFS professors
Subject: RE: calling a justice "a useful idiot", "anti-Catholic
'bigotry'" etc. Civility as a value to be defended.

I had thought all who were involved in this unpleasant had agreed to 
put it behind us.  However, since Professor Curtis is apparently not 
willing to do so, and has chosen to cast me as the villain of the 
piece, I will (for the last time, I hope) summarize what happened for 
the record.

1.  A poster made a comment that can only be interpreted as not 
simply voicing disagreement with fundamental Catholic.

2.  I posted a brief response  characterizing the comment as 
"stunningly inappropriate."

3.  The original poster responded by aggressively defending his 
original comment in a post that included a not-so-thinly veiled 
personal assault on my motives.

4.  I responded again, in a post which included the term 
"anti-Catholic bigotry," and for this, I, rather than the original 
poster stand condemned for a lack of civility.

As we say in the Torts business, res ipsa loquitur.  While not 
wishing to cast aspersions on the personal attitudes of anyone on 
this list, this entire sequence of events has only reinforced the 
views that I expressed in the second post.

At 10:37 AM 5/7/2009, Curtis, Michael K. wrote:
>I confess I have not read most of these posts.  I find calling Justice
>Kennedy a "useful idiot" on the post deeply offensive and frankly
>shocking.  The charge is ridiculous and offensive.  But at any rate, I
>do not think such language is appropriate to describe any justice or
for
>that matter anyone else.
>
>I am also distressed by the easy use of anti-Catholic bigot that has
>become fashionable in some academic circles.  The charge benefits from
>its ambiguity.  If a person is bigoted against another because he is a
>Catholic, I have no difficulty with the label bigot.  On the other
hand,
>when I church  hierarchy takes positions on political issues and issues
>such as homosexuality and birth control, then even a strong rejection
of
>the position and other views of the hierarchy and criticism of it does
>not strike me as bigotry.  Otherwise, church leaders can criticize
>politicians and others but be free from criticism themselves.  Many,
>perhaps most or all, religious hierarchies and institutions also have
>had a pretty sorry history in their pasts--of bigotry and persecution.
>Pointing that out does not strike me as bigotry either.  Many scholars
>seem to me to criticize the critics as bigots without bothering to deal
>with the merits of concerns--and whether the criticism reflects bigotry
>against all members of the faith or concerns with the teachings and
>practices of the hierarchy.
>
>I am a strong believer in free speech.  But a corollary to that should
>be that people of good will take strong exception to language of the
>"useful idiot" sort and make clear their offense and disgust at the
>departure from the most minimal level of civility.
>
>Michael Curtis
>
>
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
>[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Robert Sheridan
>Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 12:35 AM
>To: 'CONLAWPROFS professors'
>Subject: Bigotry, Idiocy, and AMK
>
>I surrender.
>
>I've learned that it's stunningly appropriate for law professors to
call
>
>a named justice an idiot on a conlaw discussion site.
>
>And that people who disagree with you are bigots.
>
>  From now on, to get along, I'm a dyed in the wool Conservative,
capital
>
>C.
>
>I've converted to the one true faith.
>
>There's only one request I have about the rules for being a good
>Conservative.
>
>Must I call Anthony M. Kennedy an idiot?
>
>Or when I stand at the lectern in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, may
I
>
>please address him as Justice Kennedy, just that once?  Please don't
>tell me that I have to call him a 'useful idiot.'  For the client's
>sake?
>
>Because I don't want to commit the sin of hypocrisy, now that I'm a
>Conservative in good standing.  At least I think hypocrisy may be a
sin,
>
>but I'm not sure, having deserted God's side, I'm reliably assured, and
>gone over to the enemy, according to a 1600-year-old authority.
There's
>
>so much of it, you know, hypocrisy.  Not to mention pomposity and
>sanctimony.
>
>Make that two requests:
>
>Now that I resolve to hate the Liberals and their whole rotten
>society-as-we-know-it-destroying ideology, does this make me a bigot?
>
>I mean, hating them, all they stand for and the positions they take on
>those quite unnecessary hot-button issues, like stretching perfectly
>good existing law to benefit...ugh, immigrants, poor people, and gays?
>Instead of really useful, contributing, better-off people like...those
>honorable bankers!  That's not bigotry, right?
>
>I presume it isn't, but so what if it is?  If I'm a real Conservative,
>who needs to be afraid of being called a bigot?
>
>rs
>sfls
>Conservative
>Bigot
>
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